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Latest update : 2010-07-02

Four people, including two foreigners, were killed as suicide bombers and gunmen stormed a US aid organisation in Afghanistan Friday. The Taliban claimed the attack, which came as US General David Petraeus prepared to take command of the campaign.

AFP - Four people including two foreigners were killed as suicide bombers and gunmen stormed a US aid organisation in Afghanistan Friday in an attack claimed by the Taliban.

Seven other foreigners were injured in the dawn attack, NATO said, while police said at least 20 Afghan civilians and police were hurt.

At least four suicide bombers attacked the premises of Development Alternatives Inc (DAI) in the northern city of Kunduz and two detonated their explosive vests, Mohammad Omar, the governor of Kunduz province, told AFP.

"Two foreigners have been killed who were both working for the organisation," said Kunduz provincial police chief Mohammad Rezaq Yaqobi.

"One Afghan guard and one Afghan policeman were also killed. Around 20 people including civilians and policemen are wounded."

A US embassy official said one of the dead foreigners was a German security guard. The nationality of the second fatality had not yet been confirmed, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Police said the fighting, which lasted about seven hours, ended around 11:00 am (0630 GMT) after the final two militants inside the building were killed.

"We managed to kill the remaining opposition and police got into the building," said Yaqobi.

Smoke billowed from the building, which was surrounded by NATO and Afghan troops after the ambush.

"The first suicide attacker detonated at the entrance, the second detonated inside the premises, killing one foreign national," Omar said, adding that another security guard and a policeman, both of them Afghans, were also killed.

German and US troops are based in Kunduz under NATO's operations to quell a Taliban insurgency which has been intensifying during the nearly nine-year conflict.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which came as US General David Petraeus prepared to head to Afghanistan in the coming days to take command of the faltering campaign.

"This morning six Taliban suicide bombers attacked the United States development organisation branch," Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the militant movement, told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.

Northern Afghanistan has largely escaped the violence that blights the south, mainly because the population is dominated by Tajiks and Uzbeks, rather than the Pashtuns who make up the bulk of the Taliban.

In the past year, however, violence in the region has escalated as the Taliban converge on roads that bring supplies from Central Asia to military bases in Afghanistan.

DAI is a so-called "implementing partner" of Washington's international aid arm USAID. It is believed to have opened its Kunduz operation about four months ago.

Such contractors are playing an increasingly important role in Afghanistan, using billions of dollars in aid pouring into the impoverished country in an effort to rebuild after 30 years of war.

The Taliban are stepping up attacks on foreign targets in reaction to intensified efforts by the US and NATO to rout the militants.

Friday's attack came just days after Taliban gunmen attacked a major NATO base in the eastern city of Jalalabad, setting off a car bomb and firing rockets.

US aid contractors have been attacked across Afghanistan in recent months, hampering their efforts to recruit foreign staff as part of the "civilian surge" to speed development.

The US and NATO have 140,000 troops in Afghanistan, with most of the newly-deployed heading to the south as part of a US-led counter-insurgency strategy aimed at bringing the fight to the Taliban.

NATO said Friday that one of its soldiers had been killed in eastern Afghanistan, bringing the death toll so far this year to 324.

Date created : 2010-07-02


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